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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Talking with dream girl Moya Angela
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Talking with dream girl Moya Angela

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Dreamgirls
April 6-11
Paramount Theatre


When Dreamgirls first opened, it took the 1981 Broadway theater world by storm. Telling the rags-to-riches story of an all-girl singing trio, it made stars of its leading ladies, Loretta Divine, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Jennifer Holiday. The smash hit number "(And I Am Telling You) I'm Not Going" not only brought Holiday a signature song, but also a rocket ride to international fame. When the movie was released in 2006, it was Jennifer Hudson's turn to shine in the heartbreaking role.

The most recent resurrection stars Broadway veteran Adrienne Warren as Lorrell Robinson and American Idol finalist Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones. In preparation for the upcoming Seattle stop on the national tour, the Seattle Gay News interviewed Moya Angela on her role as the tragic and triumphant Effie White.

Eric Andrews-Katz: When did you first become interested in musical theater?

Moya Angela: I've always liked theater and was in "show choir" in high school. We performed in competitions.

Andrews-Katz: Do you think of yourself as more of a singer or an actress?

Angela: At the beginning I considered myself more of a singer, just because I always had my instrument. I didn't go to school for musical theater, I went for musical education [vocal music]. I just knew that I had a lot more work to do as far as acting was concerned and singing always came naturally. I think they are running more neck-and-neck now.

Andrews-Katz: What challenges does playing Effie present for you?

Angela: At first I had the challenge of going to that place that you really don't want to go to emotionally. Then it was learning how to pace myself throughout the show. It was hard for me to come back [emotionally] for Act II. In Act I, from "Family" to "Dreamgirls," I have to be sad, with my feelings all hurt, and then I have to try to be contented with being in the background. There's the conclusion of Act I, and then all of Act II on top of that. I had to find a happy medium.

Andrews-Katz: How have you made the role of Effie White your own?

Angela: I started by not even listening to any other version of the show. I've always been an artist that knows myself and I try to implement myself into whatever I do. I focus on my own take on what a character can be, especially during the rehearsal process. I think in terms of not only what my character would do, but also what Moya would do in this situation and that's worked for me.

Andrews-Katz: The song "(And I Am Telling You) I'm Not Going," is a difficult song to emote night after night. How do you recover for Act II?

Angela: I actually get under a blanket and take a little nap in my dressing room. That's my secret for rejuvenating myself for Act II. Even if I have to go and cry and get it all out of my system (which has happened), then I do it and let it go. I have only 15 minutes to do all that. So, usually I wrap myself up, sit in my dressing room in the dark, and try to detach myself from it for Act II.

Andrews-Katz: Have you ever had your heart shattered like Effie does?

Angela: Yes. I find it absolutely useful, although I don't recommend it to anyone. When life issues take you there, you have no other choice but to use it. Most of the things that Effie has gone through, I have been through. I find it really helps me go there and bring the audience.

Andrews-Katz: How many times did you receive callbacks for the film role of Effie White?

Angela: Just a few times, and I wasn't even discouraged by not getting it because there were so many wonderful people who could have played that role. I was just happy to be called back and considered.

Andrews-Katz: Do you find it helpful or a hindrance that Dreamgirls has become so widely known?

Angela: I think it's a little bit of both. It's helpful because people know Dreamgirls and they want to experience it on stage. But they come with certain previous expectations from the film. The good thing with this production is it has been changed so we can give them a little bit of both. It's an entirely new version. Personally, I base myself off of the Broadway stage production.

Andrews-Katz: Will this production be going to Broadway?

Angela: I don't know. I'm feeling that they are pushing it towards that direction, but nothing is written in stone. I'm hopeful.

Andrews-Katz: The film's song "Listen" was added to this stage production. What differences are done with the song and what kind of impact does it have on the characters?

Angela: In the movie, "Listen" was Beyoncé's [Deena's] breakthrough with her husband. In this production, it's a duet reconciling the friendship between Deena and Effie. It's sort of our 11 o'clock number for Act II and it's what the audience needs to see. It takes them [Deena and Effie] back to where their friendship is by the end of the song - like a breath of fresh air.

Andrews-Katz: Would you like to continue with stage or break into more of solo singing career?

Angela: I love it all. I love the raw take of live theater - the one chance to make it happen - and I'll never leave that. I want to do my own album and movies, etc. & I have big aspirations for my career.

Dreamgirls opened on Broadway at the end of 1981 and ran for over 1,520 performances. It earned over 12 Tony nominations and won seven, including Best Actress in a Musical (Jennifer Holiday). The 2006 film was nominated for eight Academy Awards winning two including Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Hudson). Both Berry Gordy (Motown records) and Diana Ross (The Supremes) have previously threatened lawsuits saying the material was not original and stolen from their lives. Original Supreme co-founder and member Mary Wilson entitled her autobiography as Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, while Ms. Ross performed the song "Family" in her now historic Central Park concert of 1983.

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